Search Dog Unit

Search Dog Unit


The Yavapai County Search & Rescue uses a wise strategy of utilizing the amazing capability of search dogs.  Dogs use their powerful scent capability to locate lost, injured or deceased people in the wilderness after which they return to their handler to alert them of their find.  Dogs can successfully work in conditions where humans are compromised - dogs can search throughout the night without loss of effectiveness since they rely on scent rather than sight.  Dogs can also find victims buried by snow, debris, dirt or water through their ability to scent. 
The YCSRT Search Dog Unit is fortunate to have air scent certified dogs who can detect human scent from long distances, trailing certified dogs who can follow the scent of a specific person over long distances and difficult terrain and human remains detection certified dogs who are specifically trained to locate deceased persons.  The dogs are owned, handled, and trained by volunteers who devote significant time and personal resources to ensure the dogs are equipped and trained to the highest standard.

The dogs are not the only members of the team who are trained to high standards.  The Team members themselves learn land navigation, wilderness survival, first aid/cpr, tracking, locating evidence, radio communications and helicopter safety to list a few of the trainings they go through.  Plus the team members have to complete a fitness test every 2 years.

Prospective members should have a suitable dog not over 3 years old at least 15” tall at the shoulder with strong scent capability and play drive for a reward. The handler should be physically able to bushwhack several miles over difficult terrain and have time to devote at least 16 hours per month to train.  Some personal expense are required to acquire the necessary pack and equipment for themselves and their dog.

Don't have a dog? No problem.  On a search mission, no one goes out alone.  Therefore, the K9 Handlers need what are known as backers or flankers.  The role of the backer/flanker is to assist the K9 Handler in searching their assigned area.  The backer/flanker is first and foremost another pair of eyes searching the area as well as maintaining situational awareness for the team.  They also assist the handler in watching the K9's behavior and they are expected to be able to handle a GPS, maps, and radio communications.  When not on a search mission, the backer/flanker is an integral part of K9 training.  In addition to practicing their role as the backer/flanker, they also act as search subjects for the dogs to locate.

Being a part of the Search Dog Team is a very rewarding and interesting way to volunteer for the community.  Interested parties should contact the Volunteer Services Coordinator, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office.